Ten steps to starting your own business
Are you finally ready to start your own business?
Was your New Year's resolution to open a small business, begin a new venture? If so, you're probably wondering where to start.
Let me show you some essential steps.
One of the first things to figure out is what kind of business you want, what products or services to sell. But I'm going to assume you've got that figured out.
And I'm not discussing strategy — things that determine long-term success, like developing a business plan, defining your target market, figuring out your pricing.
Nope, I'm focusing on 10 key nitty-gritty details that will actually get your business under way:
• Choose a business name. Most people spend way too much time agonizing over just the right name.
Remember, you can build a successful business with a pretty boring name (Microsoft? Ford?) Don't let this paralyze you.
Your business name should be clear but not so specific that you can't grow with it. But definitely check that someone else doesn't already own the name, online at the Patent and Trademark Office, www.uspto.gov.
• Get a domain name. Before you become totally enamored with your company name, check out available domain names that fit.
Sure, your business email address could be KitsCupcakes@yahoo.com, but after you've been in business awhile, that doesn't look professional. Check domain names at Network Solutions, NetworkSolutions.com.
You'll almost certainly find that the name you want for your domain name is already taken — at least with a dot-com suffix. Try a dot-net or another suffix. Avoid hyphens and dot-org.
• Get business cards. Even if you work from home, you need business cards.
They should include your name, email address, website, phone number, and perhaps your Facebook, Twitter or other social-media handles. I also like putting a short phrase describing what you do.
You can find lots of inexpensive, high-quality printers locally or on the Web.
• Get an accounting program. Forget the shoebox, the notebook or the Excel spreadsheet.
Right from the start, get in the habit of using a business accounting program to keep track of your books.
Quickbooks is the small-business standard. I would start with the online version, Quickbooks Online, quickbooksonline.intuit.com.
• Bill your clients. If you're going to bill clients by the hour, you'll want some way to do time-tracking and invoicing. Check out FreshBooks, FreshBooks.com.
• Keep track of contacts. Learn this abbreviation: CRM.
It stands for customer relationship management, and it's a fancy way of referring to a system of keeping track of all your contacts, customers, and contacts with them. The granddaddy of CRM is Salesforce.com.
• Store your documents. If you're keeping all your important business information on your laptop, what happens if you lose it, drop it, or have it stolen?
Get in the habit right away of storing all your data in the cloud where it's immediately backed up off site. We use Dropbox, Dropbox.com, in our office, and it's great for collaboration with other employees and contractors, too.
• Get an email newsletter service. Don't be misled by the word “newsletter.”
These online services don't just enable you to easily and quickly send newsletters to your contact list, you also can use them to send any kind of announcement including sales and product launches, conduct surveys, even send individual birthday wishes automatically.
Many small businesses like the simplicity and price — free for up to 2,000 contacts — of MailChimp, MailChimp.com.
• Set up a basic website. You don't have to do this the first day you start your business.
But pretty quickly, you'll want at least a simple, even one-page, website to make you look more legitimate. One free way to get a simple website is with Weebly, Weebly.com.
• Work on your elevator pitch. Finally, you have to start networking, meeting people to get the word out about your business.
You'll need a quick, clear, and memorable way to explain what you do — that's your elevator pitch. Get guidance on how to create a great elevator pitch from tutorials I did for USA Today's Small Business Start-Up series, usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/smallbusiness/startup/week4-your-elevator-pitch.htm and usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/smallbusiness/startup/week4.htm
So go ahead, make the leap. You're on your way to becoming an entrepreneur.
Rhonda Abrams is president of The Planning Shop and publisher of books for entrepreneurs; Facebook: facebook.com/RhondaAbramsSmallBusiness.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sears leaving Century III after 3 decades in West Mifflin
- Coal gathering opens with dour assessment, political vitriol
- Finleyville maker of luxury kids’ structures learns from housing bust
- Treasury plans steps to curb tax inversions
- Existing home sales fall in August, snapping streak of gains
- Stocks slip on China growth jitters
- Balancing gas pipeline expansion, environmental unease a problem in Pa.
- More companies embrace exchanges to curb health care costs
- Consol, Noble expect at least $325 million from partnership’s IPO
- UPMC buying New Castle-based Jameson Health System
- Hospitals turn to technology to tear down language barriers with patients